Easter Bunny Handing Out Candy to Kids

Exploring Easter Traditions with the Strasburg Rail Road

As an early spring holiday, Easter brings with it excitement, bursts of color, and a wide range of favorite traditions. Some traditions have been passed down since the 1200s, while others are comparatively new. At Strasburg Rail Road, we value traditions and understanding their history. So come along as we explain the background of some of this area’s favorite springtime festivities!


Take a look around your local grocery store in early March and you’ll likely see pastel confections, chocolate eggs, and bunny-shaped sugar on the shelves. Easter is the second highest season for candy sales in America, right after Halloween. Candy designs usually include spring colors or a spring shape, such as a bunny, chick, or egg. Easter’s chocolate egg tradition dates back to early 19th century Europe, while another egg-shaped candy – jelly beans – became connected with Easter in the 1930s. The origin of the chocolate bunny is difficult to pin down, though some say it started in Germany in the early 19th century. All we know is when asked about the best way to eat a chocolate bunny, three out of four Americans say they start with the ears!


Though they are an Easter confection, Peeps are a category of their own. Headquartered in the not-too-distant city of Bethlehem, PA, Peeps have been the top-selling non-chocolate Easter candy for the past two decades. We know them as brightly colored marshmallow treats packed tightly in rows, adjoined at the “wing.” But before the 1950s, Peeps were handcrafted individually and took up to 27 hours to make. Today, thanks to a machine invented in 1954, the process takes about six minutes. Efficiency is important, considering an average of 5.5 million Peeps are made every day! And while Peeps now come in an imaginative array of colors and shapes, the yellow chick is still the top seller.


While rabbits seem an unlikely symbol for Easter, they are an ancient symbol of new life. The Easter Bunny likely first arrived in America with early German immigrants settling in Pennsylvania in the 1700s. (Much of Lancaster County’s Pennsylvania Dutch community are descendants of the German-speaking immigrants arriving around this time.) The German immigrants brought with them a tradition of an egg-laying hare who arrived in the spring. The children would create nests for the bunny to leave brightly colored eggs, and they would often leave carrots so the bunny could “refuel” after so much hopping. Eventually, the tradition of the Easter Bunny spread across the U.S., and the bunny’s tradition of leaving behind eggs expanded to include chocolate, non-chocolate candy, and even gifts.


Sharing a large, special meal with family is a popular Easter tradition, and feasts often include a variety of meats, buttery potatoes, and desserts. Another popular Easter edible is Hot Cross Buns. These are spiced, sweet buns containing dried fruit such as currants or raisins. These buns, embellished with a cross on top, have origins in ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece. They get their association with Easter traditions in 16th century England, where bakers were forbidden to sell spiced bread except for special occasions. Funerals, Christmas, and Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) were allowable special occasions.


Consuming Easter candy is delicious, but having to find it first adds a layer of excitement and fun. It’s easy to see how hunting for brightly colored Easter eggs has become a widely accepted tradition across the U.S. With roots in the Christian Reformation, the Easter Egg Hunt began with hiding dyed or painted eggs for women and children to find. Dying eggs for Easter was a tradition that started much earlier, dating back to at least the 13th century. Today, however, Easter Egg Hunts usually favor plastic eggs filled with Easter candy rather than hard-boiled eggs.

Start your own family tradition by joining us on Easter weekend and enjoy some of the festivities that make Easter an exciting springtime celebration. Start by hopping aboard our Easter Bunny Train where you and your family can enjoy a 45-minute ride through Lancaster County farmland. Kids will get an Easter surprise and can even have their photo taken with the Easter Bunny aboard the train. As added excitement, kids can bring their own baskets and join the fun of an Easter Egg Hunt! On Easter Sunday, you and your family can even enjoy Easter Dinner aboard our Victorian-era dining car.

Make Strasburg Rail Road a part of your Easter tradition by joining us March 30 – April 1. Purchase tickets ahead of the event to be guaranteed a seat!